I’m on the plane home from Eugene (…at the time – it’s now almost two days later. I’m at home on the couch if you want to know), the first moments I’ve really had to digest what happened this weekend. Vacation running with so many friends is an absolute blast – I LOVED sharing HugeEug with all of them – but all the activities and socializing left for little time to personally reflect on my own race.
Which is a cool problem to have, but I’m grateful to finally have had some quiet time to sit down and uninterruptedly hash it all out. Every split, every gut feeling, every overcome negative thought. It was easily my best race EVER and deserves some selfish time in the forefront. At least to me.
(and you, bc you’re here and obvs I’m going to word vomit every detail for you)
Here we go – The Half PR Tale, aka HugeEug Part II…
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
That was my original time goal when I began training for the Eugene Half. And this is the first time I’m publicly admitting it.
Half-way through my 12 week cycle things started falling apart – I wasn’t seeing the gains I wanted and my paces were no where near what McMillan prescribes for that goal time. I gutted out the rest of training but rescinded to the fact Eugene wouldn’t be that “Run To The Absolute Best of Your Ability” race I wanted.
So when race week came I adjusted my goals and said all I wanted was to run to my best ability on THAT day. To cross the finish feeling I gave it all I had. If I could run strong mentally and overcome the mid-race self-doubt and unwillingness to hang out in the pain place that’s plagued me before, I’d be one step closer to getting to that 1:3x territory someday down the road.
I settled into the corral between the 1:40-1:45 pace groups and listened to words by Steph Rothstein-Bruce and Craig Leon, two top US finishers at Boston this year. As the national anthem played I felt the perfect mix of nervous energy and calm confidence, and knew it could be a great day if I kept that balance and didn’t get in my own damn way.
The gun went off, “Sweet Caroline” poured through the speakers, and we crossed the start.
I kept my eyes off my watch at the start, trying to run on feel until we leveled out and I could lock in to something. I really didn’t want Garmin dictating my run, but running without my usual constant monitoring terrified me that I’d either run a) way too fast and crash and burn or b) too leisurely and have too much in the tank at the end.
The next few miles were a blur of trying to find that perfect “uncomfortably manageable” pace. My breath was controlled but my legs were already feeling the work of the hills and long slight incline. I tried not to let the idea of burning for 10 more miles scare me into slowing down.
Focusing on rhythm and feel instead of numbers worked shockingly (?) well. Each split beeped right around PR pace (7:45), and the consistency I was running at without watch-stalking was super satisfying. Like I finally just let my legs do their thing instead of robotically forcing it, and they performed way above expectation. Crazy.
7:40, 7:43, 7:43, 7:34, 7:44, 7:42
At mile 8 “The Hill” came into sight. I took water from the station (volunteers were stellar, btw) and got ready to put my head down and just go.
But then I heard a yell for my name, and déjà vu to Nuun Kim last year, SkinnyRunner’s mom was there yelling her face off, and then Mason was running next to me telling me to pick up my knees and asking if I’d been hydrating (obviously).
Hearing updates on my friends (he was on super pacer duties for like 10 people) gave me a boost, just in time for the Oiselle cheer force at mile 9. Cowbells, chicken hats, and banana suits are a great distraction from the fact we were running away from the finish line, btw.
sweaty’s caption : “see, she DOES love running!’
As we ran out towards the river the feeling in my legs turned from “working hard, muscles!” to “rapidly filling with lead, don’t want to move!” I worried I’d blown it by going out too fast and feared the looming wall that was surely just around the corner.
The thought of backing off to keep the pain at a distance crept in – without an actual goal time it seemed so tempting to turn away from it…
“will you look back at this point and regret it? when you write your recap do you want to admit to everyone you gave in?!”
I thought about the 10 miles of hard work I’d be throwing away, how I said I was going to give EVERYTHING, how the beer would taste better if I kept pushing, and committed to the rest of the race.
Still avoiding Garmin, I focused on just letting the effort feel a little bit harder – I knew I had to keep control a few more miles before really getting into the pain place.
7:49, 7:48, 7:54
“Strong and smooth. Strong and smooth.”
When two miles to go hit, I didn’t care about anything other than gassing out what was left. We were running the gorgeous tree-covered river path and the weather was perfect. There were enough people around to chase but not too many to feel cramped. I let my breath shorten and focused on lifting my knees and pushing off.
“Strong and smooth.”
It hurt. I didn’t think I could hold it. I thought again about giving in, and that for sure I was either going to puke or shit my bum wrap.
But we hit the bridge with one mile to go – crossing the water back towards campus in a very poignant “homestretch” way. I burned holes in the shirt backs in front of me, desperately trying not to let them pull away. We turned past our shakeout run spot, onto Agate, and up the cruel final hill, the sounds of the crowds at the top pulling me up.
Thanks, KMet… (photo cred Oiselle)
We crested and the Oiselles were there – their excitement cuing my first proud/happy feelings (expression attempt in above photo gets a B for effort). My legs were completely shot and I felt like I was barely moving. The final 1/2 mile to Hayward felt like a fucking eternity and I don’t think I’ve ever been passed by more people at the end of a race, but there was just nothing left to kick with.
7:41, :42s (7:30 avg)
Finally we turned into Hayward, the stands packed and the announcer calling out names, and all I could focus on was picking up my feet enough to not trip and face plant on the Tracktown USA oval where so many world-class athletes have been.
And nearly a minute faster than I ever have, I crossed a 13.1 finish line, with a “hand over heart for Boston.”
… and then collapsed into a volunteer and was put in a wheelchair. For like, a tiny amount of time. Just enough to stop the world from spinning and be able to say (/remember?) my name and where I’m from.
Which I guess validates the “finish on empty” goal?
Eugene Half Marathon, 4.28.13 – 1:40.45 (*New PR)
Almost even more than the race and PR, I’m proud of myself for not letting that original 1:38 goal overshadow my accomplishment this weekend. I set out to run the very best race I was capable of that day, and that’s exactly what I freaking did.
More on race weekend (lots of friends to brag about), the magical city of Eugene, and shenanigans soon. All with stolen pictures since my phone went the way of that old PR – RIP to both of you.
extra thanks to Pro for sponsoring me – is this what I’m supposed to say? disclosure and stuff? anyway BLG13 is good for 40% off and free s/h!